Flight from Armenia lands in Turkey as frosty ties improve


ISTANBUL, Feb 2 (Reuters) – A commercial flight carrying 64 passengers from Yerevan landed in Istanbul on Wednesday, the first direct flight of its kind in two years, as Turkey and Armenia scramble to restore very strained relationship.

Last month, Turkey and Armenia held what the two hailed as “positive and constructive” talks in Moscow, their first in more than a decade, raising hopes that normal relations can be established and that their land border – closed since 1993 – reopened.

“I am very happy. As Armenians, we are always on the side of peace… Resentments should be left in the past,” Diana Bulgadaryan, a dual citizen, said after her FlyOne Armenia flight landed. in Istanbul.

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Turkey has not had diplomatic or trade relations with its smaller eastern neighbor since the 1990s. The Moscow talks were the first attempt to restore ties since a 2009 peace deal that was never ratified. Read more

The two countries disagree on several issues, primarily the 1.5 million people Armenia says were killed in a genocide by Ottoman Turkish forces in 1915.

Turkey admits that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I, but disputes the figures and denies that the killings were systematic or amounted to genocide.

Turkey has also backed its ally Azerbaijan against ethnic Armenian forces in a 2020 conflict that saw Baku regain swaths of land in Nagorno-Karabakh territory. But Ankara has since called for a rapprochement between Baku and Yerevan.

“I hope the land borders will also open this year,” said Emirhan Samanci, the first passenger to check in on a FlyOne flight from Istanbul to Yerevan.

“In recent years, there have been measures to improve relations but they have not yielded positive results. I hope this flight will be a good opportunity,” he said.

Turkey’s Transport Ministry said FlyOne Armenia, a subsidiary of Moldovan low-cost airline FlyOne, and Turkish airline Pegasus Airlines had obtained permission for Istanbul-Yerevan flights.

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Reporting by Yesim Dikmen and Bulent Usta Editing by Gareth Jones

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